Information about Cuyo Island – Palawan – Philippines

Cuyo Archipelago of 45 Islands. Cuyo Island is part of a group of 45 island & islets with a total land area of 50 square metres. It lies south of Mindoro and between Northern Palawan and Panay. The biggest island in this archipelago is Cuyo with an area of 22 square miles and is about 9 miles long. Cuyo is divided in three municipalities, namely Cuyo, Agutaya, and Magsaysay. Cuyo is the oldest town in Palawan. Cuyo has a culture of its own which was preserved since more than 350 years. In the year 2008, the total population of the Cuyo Island is almost 25’000. Cuyo is divided into two island groups. Up north is the Quiniluban group to which Pamalican island is part and where the 89-hectare, ultra-exclusive Amanpulo Resort belongs. To the south are the Cuyo islands, where the three municipalities, namely Cuyo, Agutaya, and Magsaysay are located. Magsaysay is the location of the Anino Retreat, also exclusive but in another sense. it is one of the most unexploited islands in the country. Home to a fort, which shelters a church and a convent in its high stone walls, constructed during the Spanish period to protect its population from Moro pirates, Cuyo has one of the most ancient forts in the Philippines. Incidentally, Cuyo became the second capital of Palawan from 1873 to 1903.

Malay Settlers on Cuyo Island. In about the 16th century Chief Matuod of Malay origin was arriving in big bancas called “sakayan” and formed settlements in the island of Cuyo. A Malay Mohamedan of the name Datu Magbanua later also settled in Cuyo. Datu Magbanua’s leadership was so great and powerful, that even chieftain from another island recognized its rule. The Malays brought with them their dances and when blended with native dance, the “Soriano”, it became known as the “pondo-pondo” one of the most popular folk dances even up to the present. Chinese Settlers on Cuyo Island. During the leadership of Datu Magbanua, three Chinese Mandarines arrived on the island and settled also on Cuyo. The Chinese discovered gold deposits in Mt. Aguado and introduced gold mining, smith working, pottery, and other handicrafts. The natives of Cuyo became suspicious of the their presence and were able to drive them out. They sailed to Ilongilong (today known as Iloilo) and formed another settlement called “Parian”. Spanish Colonization of Cuyo Island. In 1622, Count San Augustin together with five Spanish missionaries colonized the island named by them as Cuyo and introduced Christianity. The friendly character of the people proved to be a blessing to the Spaniards who did not find difficulties in converting the population of Cuyo Island to Christianity. They were immediately able to baptize 500 Cuyonos. Muslim Attack Cuyo Island. In 1636 a powerful Muslim fleet under Datu Tagul raided Cuyo and other places in Palawan. In Cuyo the Muslim attacked the convent and the church and set the town on fire and took with them prisoners including a priest, Fr. Francisco de Jesus Maria. They then proceeded to Agutaya and Culion and wrought havoc and destruction on the helpless and defenceless civilians. Again their prized captive was another priest from Culion, Fr. Alonzo de San Augustin who was captured while saying mass. A Spanish naval flotilla of 6 vessels and 250 men under Capt. Nicolas Gonzales met the returning pirates with their loot and booty on December 21, 1636. Datu Tagul was killed, 300 of his men captured and 120 prisoners were liberated. The two captured priests were unlucky.

Cuyo Fort. During the early Spanish period, purposely to protect the Cuyonon from sporadic Moro attacks, Fort Cuyo was constructed and finished in 1680. The original complex of stone and mortar was a square with four bastions. The present complex, which occupies 1 ha, is a solid rectangular edifice with walls 10 m high and 2 m thick. It has a tall belfry and watchtowers; its canons, which face the sea, are now fired only during town celebrations. It is considered as one of the most ancient and unique forts in the Philippines. Unique in the sense that you can find the church, the convent and the Perpetual Adoration chapel all within the fort. In 1762 one of the British ships that invaded Manila fired at the Cuyo fort but it was not damaged at all. Another fort was started at Lucbuan seven kilometres away on the east side of Cuyo island, but it was never finished. In 1873, the capital of Paragua (present day Palawan) was transferred to Cuyo from Taytay.

Cultural Heritage. Despite its long history Cuyo has held back the hands of time and preserved its rich cultural heritage preserved since more than 350 years. The ati-ati, comedia, sinulao, sayaw, inocentes, erekay, biso, banda y tipano, cheats, tambura, birguere, pondo-pondo, curatsa, and others are things Cuyono. Mt. Aguado and Caimamis Hill feature life-size stations of the way of the cross constructed from the foot to the peak of the mountain. Cuyonon devotees, visitors and tourists make the annual pilgrimage to Mt. Aguado and Lucbuan Hill as part of the penitential rites done in Cuyo during the Holy Week.

Nature. Cuyo is a place blessed with nature’s beauty. Secluded and quiet, it is covered with cashew and coconut trees that gracefully sway to the wind. Thick clumps of bamboo abound. And of course, the vast blue seas – home to a myriad of corals and sea creatures – that seem extend to eternity. The island would appeal to hardy, outdoor types of people who enjoy taking walks, swimming and discovering a unique local culture, rather than indulging in material pleasures.

Peoples. Cuyonons live on the basics and hardly complain. They are very resourceful and have found ways to make the best of what they have like making tuba from coconut and cashew brittle their specialties. Life is slow, timeless, and the epitome of “rural living” in its simplicity, the kind that grows on people who visit the island. There is nothing to be lost in Cuyo except perhaps one’s heart. Its untouched beaches, gracious townsfolk, and simple life are its gems. Rare are places where the concept of excessive materialism does not exist, yet people are thankful and welcoming, where happiness is equated with putting value on love and life, and living means working with nature and not trying to change it.

Activities for visitors on Cuyo Island. Island hopping, snorkelling, diving, windsurfing, kitesurfing / kiteboarding, walking, jogging, bicycling, motor biking. If only for these things, Cuyo is a traveller’s dream.

Accommodations on Cuyo Island. Anino Retreat in Magsaysay (Victoria Peralta: +63 9296033275; +63 939 9179402). Cuyo town: Nikki's Pension: 14 rooms at Capusan beach (contact: +63 920 8760 008; +63 912 6433703). Feroland Hotel: 10 rooms located nearby (contact: +63 921 7904848). Villa Gange Pensione: 6 air-con rooms and 4 fan rooms (contact: +63 916 5029397). PSU-PCAT Baywatch Resort of the Palawan State University Cuyo at Capusan beach: 5 rooms (contact: +63 918 4770102). Apolic Pension: 3 fan rooms & kitchen (contact: Menchit Baloco: +63 918 501 2315). Tabunan Discovery Resort. Barangay Tenga-Tenga: 6 rooms and 3 nipa huts. (contact: +63 905 2711089; +63 947 8009121; +63 927 8612630). Coco Verde Beach Resort in Pawa with 6 nipa huts (Contact: +63 999 1982109; +63 949 4495597).

Anino Retreat Inquiries: Victoria Peralta – Mobile +63 9296033275 / +63 9399179402 / Contact:
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Cuyo History